Attitudes About Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder Among Individuals with Serious Mental Illness

A Health Belief Model Analysis

Published in: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Volume 114 (July 2020). doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2020.108007

Posted on RAND.org on May 20, 2021

by Elizabeth Bromley, Derjung M. Tarn, Michael McCreary, Brian Hurley, Allison J. Ober, Katherine E. Watkins

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Background

Medications for alcohol use disorder (MAUD) are underutilized in mental health settings. Increasing use of MAUD requires increasing both the availability of these medications and the demand by individuals who could benefit. Few studies have explored the views of individuals with severe mental illness and alcohol use disorder about MAUD. We sought to examine, among individuals treated in publicly funded community mental health clinics, perceived need for and attitudes toward MAUD.

Methods

We conducted 8 focus groups with 87 participants treated in public mental health clinics in Los Angeles County. We aimed to include individuals with a current or past AUD diagnosis and individuals helping others (e.g., a family member) who drink. We examined responses using domains associated with the Health Belief Model to identify factors that shape acceptance of MAUD.

Results

Participants were 53% female; most were minorities. Average age was 47 years (SD = 11). Twenty-four reported never drinking, 13 of whom had a current or past diagnosis of AUD. Twenty-two reported drinking 4 or more times per week. Three-quarters had not heard of naltrexone. Participants understood that alcohol use has severe adverse consequences and perceived themselves to be highly susceptible to these consequences. Regarding attitudes toward MAUD, participants described an internal locus of control (e.g., their own desires, actions, and effort) as central to addressing problem drinking; this shaped their views that MAUD would have only modest benefits and potentially high burden. Those individuals who had tried MAUD expressed the most optimism about its effectiveness.

Conclusions

Participants worried MAUD would impede the development of self-control over drinking by fostering dependence on medication and undermining self-discipline. Client education and counseling that emphasizes MAUD as a tool to build clients' self-control may increase demand for these medications in mental health settings.

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